Christopher Hitchens on the Confederate Flag

Since it’s been a subject of frequent conversation lately (writing this as of July 8th, 2020), we thought it would be a good time to relay Christopher Hitchens’ views on the Confederate flag. Among the handful of references we could find, one quote, is undoubtedly our favorite and feel obliged to share it in this moment of racial turmoil (for those wondering, the second quote listed here is the one in question). 

In 1996, South Carolina Governor David Beasely advocated for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol building only to ultimately backtrack on his claim. However for the next four years, South Carolina would remain in the national spotlight as the country debated the issue of the Confederate flag. Enter Hitchens, commenting about a year into the recent installment of the controversy (at the time) with the following line.

If you ever catch yourself asserting that concern with flags and emblems is irrelevant, then pause briefly and inquire what you think about the Confederate battle flag. Many citizens believe this symbol of slavery and secession ought not to be flown over state capitols. Are they making a fuss about nothing?

Christopher Hitchens

7/1997, The Nation

An important issue that the Hitch does not forget to include is the confusion over the Confederate Battle Flag and the actual flag of the Confederate States of America. For those that are unaware, the image below is the flag of the Confederate States of America. Notice how it looks eerily similar to the U.S. flag? That was by design. During the cessation process, the charter member states of the C.S.A. believed that their vision of limited government represented the “true America” and they were doing precisely what they thought the founding father’s would do. But then…things started to change. 

The Confederate Battle Flag was never adoped by the Confederate States of America, either by their Congress or by any of their member states. If you’ve heard of any controversy surrounding the Confederate Flag, this is almost certainly the flag in question. 

Now that we have some context and qualifiers out of the way, let’s get to our long awaited favorite quote by the Hitch on the flag and one of our favorite quotes from the legendary figure of all time. 

Why is it, when I see a Confederate battle flag flapping from the rear of a pickup truck, that I don’t axiomatically make the association with courtesy, gentility, chivalry, and hospitality?

Christopher Hitchens

7/1999, Vanity Fair

One more for good measure (below). Here Hitchens goes after those that believe that the flag is throwback to “better” times and an omage to tradition and southern values. As the above quote adequately demolished, the truth is that if the flag did represent southern values, it’s odd that those that fly it aren’t the best advocates for its associated principles. 

The flag of the Confederate Army is not just unpaged and unwashed—it is quite deliberately flaunted by those who still think that the vilest aspects of the old ‘way of life’ are the ones to be cherished.

Christopher Hitchens

2/2000, The Nation

Note that even though the subject of this article is deceased, we still reserve the right to make modifications and changes to the content if we discover that, in his vast appearances on various media outlets, we have ommitted more relevant quotes from the journalist and author about the subject. 

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